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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Academics & Research

Questioning climate change claims at Energy Symposium Series


The Houston Ship Channel is one of the United States’ biggest seaports and sees daily transportation of major products, including a variety of petrochemicals. The energy industry will soon have to deal with new policies regarding the transportation, production and storage of certain products as the debate about global warming heats up the international stage. | Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The state climatologist, the climate change adviser for Royal Dutch Shell and a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will gather today at UH for “Climate Change: Is it a Real Threat?” — part of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics’ 2013-2014 Energy Symposium Series — to discuss and assess the challenges raised by climate change.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the planet’s average temperature has risen by 1.4 degrees in the last century, projecting that it will rise another 2 to 11.5 degrees during the next hundred years, and energy experts are debating how this will affect the globe’s future.

“Regardless of your political views, this is something that’s going to impact everybody,” said associate professor of atmospheric science and atmospheric chemistry Barry Lefer, moderator of the discussion, in a statement about the symposium’s topic.

“I want to focus on what scientists are concerned about — what the threats are.”

Research by the Nature Conservancy claims that if the Earth continues to see temperatures rise at such a rapid rate, one-fourth of the planet’s species could face extinction by 2050.

The conservation organization also cites threats such as changing landscapes, rising seas, stronger storms, heat-related illnesses and diseases, economic losses and increased risk of drought, fire or floods.

“But people need a better understanding of the science that is driving our understanding of it,” said interim NSM dean Dan Wells in a UH press release. “The speakers (at the symposium) may not agree on all of the details of that science, but the audience is sure to leave better-informed about what’s true and what is not in the ongoing debates about climate change and the impacts those debates will have on our country’s energy policy.”

The White House is already in action. According to the Executive Office of the President, the Obama administration is implementing a climate action plan that consists of a large amount of executive actions. The three key pillars of this plan are to cut carbon pollution in America, prepare the country for the impacts of climate change and lead international efforts to combat global climate change.

Speakers at the symposium will include Richard Feeley, senior fellow at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle; David Hones, chief climate change advisor in the Shell CO2 team in London; and John Nielson-Gammon, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University and the Texas state climatologist.

“Climate Change: Is it a Real Threat?” will be the third in a series of four discussions focusing on critical issues facing the energy industry. The final segment will discuss the sustainability of renewable energy on March 4.

Today’s discussion, sponsored by Houston Business Journal and Houston Public Media, will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Waldorf-Astoria Ballroom of the Hilton UH. To attend the event, RSVP at

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